Fact checking Trump's speech, tensions flare with China & honoring the victims: The Morning Rundown

A "hero" grandfather, a teen soccer player, an Army vet: The lives lost in the El Paso massacre.
Image: Advocates of gun reform legislation hold a candle light vigil for victims of recent mass shootings outside the headquarters of the National Rifle Association
Advocates of gun reform legislation hold a candle light vigil for victims of recent mass shootings outside the headquarters of the National Rifle Association in Fairfax, Virginia, on Monday. Win McNamee / Getty Images

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By Petra Cahill

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Today we are taking a look at the lives lost in the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. We’ve also fact-checked President Donald Trump’s White House speech. And see how one man has dedicated himself to memorializing victims of violence.


'He's a hero': Victims of the mass shootings

As gunshots rang out at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart on Saturday, David Johnson, his wife, Kathy, and their 9-year-old granddaughter, Katie Melendez, were checking out at the cash register.

Johnson, 63, immediately moved to protect his wife and granddaughter, his daughter told NBC News. He died using his body as a shield against the bullets.

He is just one of at least 22 people killed in the Texas border town. But he is not the only one to sacrifice his own life for others. We take a look at the people behind the staggering numbers in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.


El Paso suspect got lost and stopped at Walmart because he was hungry, police say

The suspect in the El Paso shooting may have stopped at Walmart after driving 11 hours because he was lost, police said.

"After that he found his way to the Walmart because we understand he was hungry," El Paso police Chief Greg Allen said Monday.

The suspect is in police custody and authorities police say he is cooperating with their investigation.

Meantime, the Dayton shooter's gun was called an "orchestra of metal and hellfire" in an advertisement for the AM-15.

Police say the gunman legally obtained the modified assault-style weapon that killed nine people and wounded 14 others in a 30-second spasm of violence.

But questions remain over whether it was a legal weapon — and what the shooter might have done to enhance its lethality.


'He failed to mention Latinos': El Paso residents outraged by Trump's speech

President Donald Trump condemned "racism, bigotry and white supremacy" in his televised address to the nation Monday after the pair of mass shootings over the weekend.

The president did not call for additional gun control measures, instead blaming violent video games and mental illness, among other factors, for the scourge of mass shootings.

“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” he said.

But as far as the residents of El Paso are concerned, the president's speech had a major omission: he left Hispanics and Latinos completely out of his speech.

"We’ve got dead bodies. The majority are Hispanic," said State Rep. Cesar Blanco, a Democrat who represents El Paso. "I think it’s telling; he failed to mention Latinos."

We also have a fact check on Trump's claim that video games are to blame for the mass shootings. Researchers who have studied the issue for years told NBC News there is no evidence that violent video games encourage violence in real life.

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"We found a whole lot of nothing," said Andrew Przybylski, a researcher at Oxford University who has been studying the psychological effects of video games for more than a decade and co-authored a 2019 study.


China warns about U.S. deployment of arms in Asia as trade tensions flare

The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday designated China as currency manipulator, a historic move that no White House had exercised since the Clinton administration.

The formal designation came after China devalued its currency to a level the U.S. Treasury Department said was intended "to gain unfair competitive advantage in international trade."

But neither the markets, nor Beijing, responded well to the move.

China's central bank said that the label would "severely damage international financial order and cause chaos in financial markets."

U.S. stock prices slid sharply on Monday, with the Dow Jones dropping more than 750 points.

And amid the trade and currency tensions, Beijing said Tuesday that it "will not stand idly by" and will take countermeasures if the U.S. deploys arms in the Asia-Pacific region, which Washington has said it plans to do within months.


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Honoring the victims

In our rituals of public sorrow, Greg Zanis’ handcrafted white crosses, Stars of David and crescent moons are ubiquitous — from Columbine to Pittsburgh and miles and miles of tears in between.

And now, 22 crosses have been placed across from the Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

It began as a tribute to his own murdered father-in-law in 1996. His first mass shooting was Columbine. Since then the retired Illinois carpenter has crisscrossed the country in his pick-up truck with an itinerary of grief and mass murder.

Out of 26,799 memorials he’s made, he said over 21,000 were dedicated to victims of gun violence.

“I feel that my whole country is dealing with post-traumatic stress,” the 68-year-old said in El Paso on Monday.

Sadly, his work is never done. He is headed to Dayton, Ohio, with nine crosses next.


Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

If you have any comments — likes, dislikes — drop me an email at: petra@nbcuni.com

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Thanks, Petra